A late second-half rally sparked by a Gerrard Simpkins takeover got Bishop Sullivan into overtime, but it wasn’t enough. The Crusaders fell 63-55 to Benedictine on Tuesday at home in the opening round of the VISAA Division I boys state basketball tournament.
The No. 10-seed Cadets caught fire from the get-go in overtime with three consecutive 3-pointers, sinking the No. 7 Crusaders and ending their impressive season with a tough-to-swallow defeat.
Benedictine’s length and size troubled Bishop Sullivan’s ability to exploit the paint. The Cadets finished with nine blocks while out-rebounding the Crusaders 37-28. The Cadets’ ability to break the Crusaders’ 1-3-1 zone early in overtime proved decisive.
“They’re athletic as can be,” Bishop Sullivan coach Chris Harris said after the loss. “A tough match-up. Played real physical with us. Whenever we got to the rim, it wasn’t easy. We got very few easy finishes.”
Not much went Bishop Sullivan’s way all night. The Crusaders were out-rebounded, shot only 2 of 11 from 3-point land, made only 5 of 10 free throws, never held a lead in regulation and turned the ball over on crucial possessions when they could have tied or taken the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Harris never let his boys lose hope of a comeback, keeping their spirits high while yelling “We’re still in this!” from the sideline after every big shot or key stop.
Despite the ball rarely bouncing its way, Bishop Sullivan kept the game close. Tied 44-44 with less than a minute left, the Crusaders had a chance to win the game on their final possession. Harris couldn’t have asked for much more than that.
“Our whole year was just that,” Harris said. “We survived so many bad breaks throughout the year. Eventually the number of bad breaks added up and we needed some luck tonight … but we can’t rely on that, obviously.”
Simpkins was sensational in the second half, scoring 22 points, including all of Bishop Sullivan’s 11 fourth-quarter points, and bringing life to an offense that had appeared dead at halftime, down 28-19.
The senior guard finished with a game-high 32 points, five rebounds, two steals, and one much-deserved curtain call at the end of regulation.
“He’s our guy,” Harris said. “He’s willed us to everything the whole year. He’s our Russell Westbrook. We’ll go as he goes.”
While Benedictine’s 40 percent field-goal shooting might not show it on paper, the Cadets were sharp offensively when it counted. They had 16 assists on 20 field goals. In overtime, Benedictine hit all three of its field goals (all 3-pointers) and shot 10-of-12 from the free throw line.
Aaron Fowlkes led the Cadets with 18 points, Anthony Roberson scored 15 points with seven rebounds, and Justin Henry added 13 points. Cutch Ellis was a major presence in the paint with a game-high 13 rebounds, two blocks and a handful of altered shots to go with eight points.
The Crusaders took their first lead of the game when Critt Johnson’s jumper put them on top 46-44 less than a minute into overtime. That’s when Benedictine responded with the three consecutive 3-pointers en route to a 55-48 lead with two minutes left, forcing Bishop Sullivan to foul the rest of the game.
Johnson scored 11 points, while Lance Tebay pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds with three blocks. Senior point guard Phil Baumgartner scored nine points with two assists.